For over a decade, Ben Chasny has been releasing records under the Six Organs of Admittance banner at the rate of roughly one a year. While thematically they all seem to hold at their core a brooding, often desolate world view, musically they stretched their American primitive folk roots to the limits, and more often than not, broke them. Chasny's imagination usually hangs out at the murky, often blurry crossroads of deep Americana, Middle Eastern, and Asian drone and chant modalities that he articulates beautifully on guitars, harmoniums, with his understated vocals, and whatever else he decides to toss into the mix. Asleep on the Floodplain is a ten-song affair recorded between 2007 and 2010 at his homes in Seattle and San Francisco. Chasny plays all the instruments: guitars (mostly acoustic), sparsely used analog synths, harmoniums, and EFX. His acoustic guitar playing is dominant, delicately weaving throughout his carefully articulated melodies and wide-open harmonies; his singing voice deliberately submits to the guitar’s authority, technically and aesthetically. The gorgeous, droning opener “Above a Desert I’ve Never Seen” and “Poppies” are intricate solo pieces for acoustic guitar; the tactile sounds of hands squeaking on strings invite the listener into them by way of seeming proximity to the closeness of that sound. “Light of the Light,” which follows, is a quiet, beautifully spiritual song where Chasny duets with himself; its instrumental bridge is among the loveliest things he’s composed. “Brilliant Blue Sea Between Us” is an organ-haunted love song that reveals a new vulnerability in his writing. “S/Word and Leviathan,” the album’s longest cut, was inspired by the work of the “Process” theologian Catherine Keller. The six- and 12-string guitars engage one another in an insanely intricate repetitive pattern as Chasny's voice appears and vanishes inside the ether at the margins. Synths, vocal chants, and horn sounds are added in droning layers until his voice returns near the end to pose spiritual questions as statements; his electric guitar swoops and swirls alongside an organ to close it out on an apocalyptically redemptive note. The closer, “Dawn, Running Home,” represents the place of return; guitars, harmonium, and ambient sounds are an in-kind affirmative response to the loneliness and desolation of the album’s opening cut, with Chasny’s falsetto and overdubbed vocal choruses underscoring it. Asleep on the Floodplain stands as a brilliantly constructed bridge between SOOA's For Octavio Paz and Sun Awakens, yet moves deftly and pronouncedly forward into previously uncharted terrain.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek